“One of the most fierce competitors I’ve ever coached. His will to win is second to none. Kadeem’s journey from national junior college player of the year to NBA draft was not coincidental. He has worked extremely hard every step of the way.”
Kirk Angel, Kadeem Allen’s High School coach at New Hanover
Work ethic will certainly not be a problem for Elad Hasin’s new lead guard at Hapoel Haifa as the club made quick work of finding a replacement for Keenan Evans by inking guard Kadeem Allen for the upcoming 2021/22 season. Allen, who was selected 53rd overall in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Celtics had a two spells in the greatest league in the world with Boston as well as with the New York Knicks where he spent two seasons.
This past year, Allen played in France for JL Bourg where he averaged 9.6 points and 2.7 assists per game in EuroCup action while putting up similar numbers in the domestic LNB league (8.9p/2.5a) but mutually parted ways midway through the campaign. Upon returning to the United States, the Wilmington, North Carolina native joined the Canton Charge but an injury led to him to being cut by the G-League team.
On the face, the signing of Allen looks to be like a stroke of genius by Carmel Reds Head Coach Elad Hasin who hit the bullseye on all four of his foreigner signings last year, the club’s first campaign back in the top flight league in twenty years. Allen, who is no stranger to challenges, has experienced plenty in his day as he moved on up from Hutchinson Community College to a top of the line program in Arizona and eventually to the NBA.
However, Allen almost never made it out of Hutchinson. Allen’s high school coach Kirk Angel had encouraged the budding talent to head to Kansas’s Jayhawk Conference and the junior college route due to his grades. But after just one month at Hutchinson, Allen wanted out feeling that he was too far away from home. Angel told him to stay put and work on his craft and from there good things would happen.
Good things did indeed begin to happen as Allen settled into his new surroundings and helped lead Hutchinson to the conference title while also being named as a First Team NJCAA All-American. In his second season with the Blue Dragons, Allen took home the NJCAA Basketball Player of the Year award while rewriting the conference’s record books.
Allen knew what he had to do in order to climb the ladder and just two years later he was playing for a top flight program with the Arizona Wildcats, setting him up to eventually make it to the NBA.
Where would Allen be today if he had left junior college and head back home?
One of Allen’s strongest attributes on the floor is his defense and has been his calling card at every single stop in his career.
The 6-3 guard used his “D” to continue to advance in his career which began under Steve Eck at Hutchinson between 2012-2014 where he checked in with 25.9 points a game in his second and last season at the college.
“Kadeem is a very good defender who hates to lose and plays very physical and tough. He’s just a competitor. If it’s a pickup game or a real game, he goes full speed,” Eck told The Sports Rabbi.
Allen’s defensive prowess followed him to Arizona where he played under Sean Miller but had to red shirt his first year the 2014/15 season with a loaded back court ahead of him which included the likes of TJ McConnell, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. That season was spent getting used to his new environment learning the ropes under Miller while also working out and putting on some muscle.
With the Wildcats, Allen’s 6-9 wingspan allowed him to continue being that lockdown defender Miller had expected which would eventually lead him to a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team spot in his senior year.
“Defensively he has great length,” Eric Townsend, from ZonaZealots.com began. “He’s a very heady player that uses his size and lateral quickness and athleticism to his advantage being able to guard 1-3 easily.”
“He was a great scorer in JUCO ball but probably more known for defense and grit at Arizona,” Bruce Pascoe from Tuscon.com said excitedly.
Being the defensive stopper saw Allen’s offense at Arizona drop from what it had been in the past but that was to be expected as he scored 8.4 points and added 3.6 assists in his Junior season while notching 9.8 points and 3 assists in his Senior campaign.
Following his time with the Wildcats between 2014-17, Allen had raised enough eyebrows to find his way in the NBA after being drafted by the Celtics. Allen signed a two-way contract for the 2017/18 season that saw him split time with the Maine Red Claws in the G-League where he chalked up 17.7 points, 4.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 34 games. For the Celtics, Allen was used very sparingly in 18 games playing just a modest 6 minutes a game while averaging 1 point.
After one season with the Celtics, Allen joined the New York Knicks for two years where he bounced between the big club and Westchester. In his first season he played 19 games and checked in with 10 points and 4 assists in 21.9 minutes while with the G-League team north of New York City, Allen scored 15.3 points and dished out 6.7 helpers in 39 contests.
His second year with the Knicks saw his promising debut season with the club evaporate with just ten games, 11.7 minutes and 5 points.
However, the move to the NBA didn’t have any effect on his defensive play explained Alex Wolfe from thestrick.land and lockedonknicks.com, “He defends his butt off. He’s a little shorter but has a solid wingspan, so defending PGs is mainly his space, but he can hold his own against some 2 guards too.”
“For me, Kadeem was a point guard who could really score,” Eck said. “At Arizona, they used him as a passer. Very quick and explosive.”
Townsend also chimed in on his time with the Wildcats, “He was never a superstar, but a great role player that brought cohesiveness and a confidence to the game. A decent scorer and shooter, but nothing elite.”
“Kadeem is every coach’s dream!” Shereen Rayan from ZonaZealots.com said. “He gives 150%, he is very coachable, a floor general point guard and is very loyal. He singlehandedly helped the Wildcats win very important games risking his body. Head Coach Sean Miller depended on him tremendously.”
Of course the NBA game is a totally different animal than the college version where strengths and weaknesses are much more apparent.
Wolfe broke down some of Allen’s positives which he was able to cull from seeing him as a professional, “Good shooter and I was always really impressed with his ability to shoot from three. He’s not a “point guard,” per se, even though he played that position for the Knicks. That was always kind of more of a referendum on just how dire the Knicks’ need for a point guard was. I think he’s best served as a combo guard that can do some ball handling, but also shoot in spot-up situations.”
Is Allen’s ultimate goal the NBA and can he return to the top of the heap? If so, it will be a serious challenge for him to get there as perhaps he had his chance and reached his ceiling in North America Wolfe continued.
“Ultimately I think he got a fair shake in the NBA. I had campaigned for the Knicks to re-sign him, but understood when they didn’t. He really was great on a two-way deal as a guy that the Knicks could kind of break the glass on every once in a while and use as an emergency PG, but I can understand not wanting to give him a full NBA deal once he wasn’t eligible for two-way deals anymore. Thanks to the short stature and his limited development potential (came into the league at 25 years old, doesn’t have an outstanding physical profile to build on), I think there just wasn’t any upside left and they didn’t see him as a guy they wanted around as their 3rd/4th string point guard.”
However, Macri who does a superb job analyzing the Knicks on a day in and day out basis felt that Allen didn’t get a big enough chance to really show his wares at the top level.
“He didn’t really get much of an opportunity, and that team was positively atrocious, so it’s really not saying much, but the on off stats reinforced the eye test. In particular, he had a four-game stretch in early February 2019 where he averaged 16 points and six assists and was quite good from deep, albeit on very limited volume. He had a couple of stinkers later in the season as well, an 0/8 game at Toronto, followed by a 1-for-7 showing against Denver, but also had a few more good ones as well. And then in the 19-20 season, he never really got an opportunity to play which never really made any sense to me, because, again, the shot seemed to be legit.”
Maybe Allen’s future lies in Europe and working with Hasin will allow him to get up to speed as to what is expected of him at the EuroLeague level which would be the ultimate goal in the continent. Wolfe’s comments about where the guard is lacking could be the ultimate reason as to why the NBA is no longer in reach.
“He’s not really that switchable, at least not by NBA standards. But the wingspan does help make up for some of that. He’s definitely not a pure PG. He can run pick-and-roll pretty well (which was good enough when he was on the Knicks), but I think more advanced stuff is a little out of his wheelhouse. Combining those last two points, ideally you’d want to play him with a bigger PG on the floor who can defend multiple positions, because otherwise you find yourself in this space where Kadeem isn’t your “point guard” on the floor, but can only guard the other team’s point guard, or maybe be slightly overmatched at SG.”
Finally, putting his on floor ability aside, Allen is continuously being praised for his off court attitude which will definitely be a plus when looked upon to be a veteran presence with Hapoel Haifa.
“He seemed great off the court. Really hard worker, nobody ever had anything bad to say about him,” Wolfe exclaimed.
Eck also feels that Allen will be a perfect fit in the Holy Land, “Kadeem loves the game. His quick first step and his defense will make him a good player in Israel.”
“Possibly the most complete player I’ve coached,” Kirk Angel said. “Unbelievable teammate, in which he led by example every single day rather it be an early morning practice or state championship game.”